A plethora of pelagics
  |  First Published: February 2006

This is prime time to target all of the local pelagics with salmon, tailor and bonito in schools on top and kingfish and amberjacks mainly holding deep around channel markers and other structure.

The best way to catch the kings and ambers is on live bait dropped down to the depth they are holding. Another method is to jig deep using soft plastic stickbaits, metal jigs or a combo of both.

When using lures around these markers I first cast unweighted Sluggers or Mojos close to the poles or structure. Often this will produce a fish or a bust-off.

Before rushing off I will check my Matrix 97 sounder whether the kings and ambers are holding deep. If the sounder shows fish, I will drift over them after calculating wind and current. I then lower a jig to the bottom, keeping in contact with it on the decent as often fish will strike on the drop.

When your lure hits bottom, wind it a few turns and jig it up and down with the rod a few times and often a fish will strike. If it doesn’t, I wind at high speed with a pause or two on the way up. On many occasions you will be nailed on the pause or just as you start to retrieve.

Often when we are jigging if there is no current I will cast an unweighted soft stickbait, put the rod into a rod holder and let the lure slowly sink. I let it sit there, moving up and down only with the boat movement from the waves. This will often hook up without any input by the angler.

If this is unsuccessful I work the lure up slowly, putting action into it with the rod and then repeat the process.

It also pays to get a berley going as often baitfish and predators will follow it right back to the boat. Pin a live bait and send it down as a back-up.

Berley is also handy when deep-water fly fishing Get a good trail going, cast your fly, let its sink and retrieve it back through the trail.

Or you can float a lightly weighted soft plastic down the berley trail and slowly work it back.

This type of fishing is very demanding on tackle so check all your knots, leaders, line and drag settings. If there’s a weakness it will cost you fish. I use a 6kg to 8kg Strudwick rod, Shimano 6000 Stradic or Sustain reels loaded with yellow 20lb to 30lb Superbraid with 40lb leader. In deeper water I often use multi-coloured Pioneer Braid because every colour is in 10 metre sections and by counting the colours I know how deep my lure is.

When the pelagic fish are feeding on small bait, a fly can outfish most other methods because it is the same size, shape and colour as the baitfish. You can also work a fly a lot slower than most lures or you can let the fly just sit in the middle of a feeding school.

The best way to work a school of feeding fish is to position your boat in front of the fish and let them come to you. Most schools work into the wind so always cast your lure or fly ahead of them.

I usually start my retrieve with a double-hand strip, which works well when the fish are active. If this does not work, try a long, slow strip or fast short strips with pauses. Every now and then you will find the fish will hit you on the pause.

If the fish go down, don’t rush off because often as the fish will pop up after a short while as part of a pattern. If the fish go down and don’t pop up or you can’t find them on top, use your sounder to locate them and try a fast-sinking line to get down to them.

Most 8wt fly outfits will do the job on tailor, salmon, bonito and small kings. You might need to carry a 9wt or 10wt if some big kings turn up or if you are using shooting heads to get down deep.


The bass have been feeding well in the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers on fly and lure. Surface and subsurface presentations have been banging the fish.

Fly is a deadly way to catch bass on the surface and down deeper and surface fly is most exciting and effective, with explosive strikes. You can often cast a fly into areas that you will find difficult cast a lure into.

You can also match the size of the insects the bass are feeding on with a fly, make a more delicate presentation and when you miss a strike you can pick up your fly from the water and drop it back on the spot with out having to retrieve all the way back, as you would with conventional lure tackle.

A great spot to start fly fishing for bass is between Windsor and North Richmond, where you can start by ‘pot holing’ the gaps in the rafts of weed. In this area you do not have to worry about overhanging tree and shrubs on the back cast.

Cast your fly to the far side of one of these holes, let it sit for few seconds and then strip it back. If you get a hook-up, don’t muck around – drag the fish out as fast as you can, otherwise it will bury you in the thick weed.

Another spot to cast is the clear area between the inside edge of the weed bed and the shore. This maybe only a metre wide but work your fly very slowly from the water’s edge to the weed bed, with a long pause when you get to edge of the weed because often the bass will be in the weeds.

Some of the flies I use include small poppers, cricket and hopper patterns, to name a few.

A sinking fly can be used in front of the weed beds. Cast parallel to the weed edge, let it sink to depth and retrieve with short, fast strips with a pause of a second every three or four strips. I use a sinking Striper 4 line with two metres of 6kg leader.

You can also fish sub-surface using floating line and weighted flies across the top of weed beds. Flies I like for this include Clouser, shrimp and baitfish patterns.


Shannon Kitchener and I have produced two DVDs on sport fishing. These show you how to target all the different fish local trailer-boat anglers can catch on lure, fly and some bait. Species include bass, bream, bonito, flathead, tailor, salmon, mahi mahi, trout and of course kingfish

We fish with top anglers including Scotty Lyons, Jeff Brown, Kim and Steve Bain and plenty of others. Keep your eye out at local tackle stores for Sportsfishing Action and Sportsfishing Action 2.

To learn more about fishing for Sydney kingfish, bonito, salmon, and tailor from my 7m Vision sportfisher, including how to cast, use soft plastics, poppers and troll can ring me on 0408 334 892.

Bonito and kings should both be going great guns this month.

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